Democracy Day in Nigeria Date in the current year: June 12, 2019

Democracy Day in Nigeria Democracy Day is a public holiday in the Federal Republic of Nigeria celebrated on June 12. It commemorates the country’s first democratic elections that took place on that day in 1993.

Although Nigeria was officially declared a republic in 1963 – three years after gaining independence from the United Kingdom – it has been ruled by military juntas for most of its modern history. The already difficult situation was exacerbated by conflicts between different ethnic groups.

The first military coup in Nigeria took place in January 1966. The plotters were mostly Igbo officers. Although the coup was successful, the plotters struggled to form a central government, and their leader, Major General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi, was overthrown and murdered half a year later. He was succeeded by General Yakubu Gowon.

The counter-coup led to the rise of tensions between North and South which resulted in the persecution of Igbos in Northern cities. Shortly after, the Eastern Region declared independence as the Republic of Biafra, and the 30-month Nigerian Civil War began.

In 1975, Gowon was overthrown in a bloodless coup by a group of officers led by Brigadier Murtala Mohammed. Mere months later, Mohammed was assassinated in a failed coup attempt and succeeded by Olusegun Obasanjo. Obasanjo agreed to hand power to a new civilian regime. Following an election, he was succeeded by the elected Shehu Shagari. This marked the beginning of a brief period of democracy known as the Second Nigerian Republic.

In 1983, the military once again overthrew the government and established the Second Junta. This time, the military regime lasted for over 15 years and came to an end in 1998, when dictator Sani Abacha died in his villa (the cause of death was identified as a sudden heart attack but it is believed that Abacha was poisoned). His successor, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, adopted a new constitution that provided for democratic elections. In 1999, Olusegun Obasanjo won the elections, becoming the first civilian and democratically elected head of state in Nigeria after 16 years of military junta.

Democracy Day in Nigeria was first established in 2000. It was celebrated on May 29 to commemorate the day when Obasanjo took office as President of Nigeria, ending multiple decades of military rule. Obasanjo’s presidency put an end to military rule and marked the beginning of transition to democracy.

However, in June 2018, a week after the usual celebration of Democracy Day, President Muhammadu Buhari and the government of Nigeria moved the holiday to June 12. Such a date was chosen to commemorate the 1993 democratic elections that, sadly, failed to restore democracy.

When Ibrahim Babangida assumed power in 1985, he promised an eventual return to democracy. The country’s first free and fair elections in a long time were held on June 12, 1993. Moshood Abiola won with some 58% of votes, but Babangida annulled the results, and the promised return to democracy didn’t happen.

Although the 1993 elections were annulled, their historical importance is indisputable. They are considered the first step towards democracy in present-day Nigeria, and for this reason June 12 was declared the new Democracy Day.

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Category

Public Holidays

Country

Nigeria

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Democracy Day in Nigeria, holidays in Nigeria, public holidays, Olusegun Obasanjo, Moshood Abiola